Quantcast NEW YORK CITY HORROR FILM FESTIVAL 2006 report


NEW YORK CITY
HORROR FILM FESTIVAL 2006 (Nov. 2006) by Bunni Speigelman

Kick Off Party at Don Hill's 7pm (Free Beer provided by Hobgoblin beer)

Festival Director Michael Hein and Program Director Anthony Pepe were there to kick off the festivities. Half way through the program, Bryan Norton, writer and director of Penny Dreadful handed out Friday the 13th memorabilia autographed by Betsy Palmer to those audience members who could correctly answer Friday the 13th trivia. He was thoroughly ashamed that almost no one in the audience could correctly identify the Friday the 13th in which the word Jason was never uttered.

At the end of the night, we were sent home with schwag bags including a ghost girl mouse pad (go visit the site-filled with lots of goodies including my faves a "died 2 day" section and a "beyond style" paperdoll), a package of cherry heads, a carton of gummy flies, a bookmark courtesy of
Razor Reel, and a copy of The Phantom of the Movies' Videoscope.

Casket Climber Insect God directed by Brian Lonano 2min 38sec - This music video begins with a tribute to German Expressionism before a combination of puppetry, claymation, and fake blood provide a visual compliment to an original score. Winner of Best Experimental Project and Best Music Video Of The Year at the 2006 Action On Film International Film Festival in Long Beach, California.

13 Ways To Die At Home directed by Lee Lanier 2min 30sec - This film pairs educational film footage from the 50s with special effects and voice overs to depict a hilarious series of bizarre fatal home incidents with a very distinct visual style. Think of it as a short horror version of What's Up Tiger Lily? The list, seemingly comprised by my mother, includes the not only popular death as a result of "bad mushrooms", but the amusingly improbable death by satanic clowns, burnt toast, and, my personal favorite, lost socks. Certainly will make me check the dryer a bit more carefully the next time I can't find a mate for my sock, but it will make doing laundry more exciting.

No Second Chances directed by Rafael De Leon, Jr. 2 minutes - This short makes the brutality and cruelty of a one on one basketball game overt. After a game, two brothers discover that this game has severe repercussions that neither one of them anticipated.

Kisses directed by Dominic Traverzo 3min 33sec - This short reminds me a of BC Furtney's Disposer and Culinary Art  (Culinary Art was part of last years NYCHFF and Disposer was included on Blood Drive II) in which a fairly standard sexual situation is suddenly turned on its head. Seductive guitar music plays while a fairly standard, but carefully shot, scene of seduction unfolds. The camera lingers on a man kissing a young woman's legs, stomach, and pedicured toes. The reveal illustrates how brutal sexual and romantic fixation can really be. Not to give away the twist-this short makes a direct connection between sensual pleasure and cruelty, but with a sense of humor.

Dear Sweet Emma directed by John Cernak 5min 17sec - This computer animated film amusingly depicts what we all suspect-behind that sweet faced granny with white hair and bifocals is a homicidal maniac who delights in clubbing little birdies with frying pans and shoving housecats down the garbage disposal.

The Butcher, The Baker & The Nightmare Maker directed by Steffan Schulz 1 minute - This film is the "Hostel" of extreme pumpkin carving.

The Faeries Of Blackheath Woods directed by Ciaran Foy 3 min 3sec - This film opens with an exuberant little girl so focused on her pursuit of what first appears to be a butterfly that she runs through the picnic her parents have laid. Ignoring their warning, she becomes even more determined to follow her prey when she realizes it is a fairy. Farther and farther she plunges into the forest, only to discover that she doesn't live in a fairy tale.

This film's slightly muted colors reminded
 Arthur Rackham's illustrations , which often depicted fairies.  The costuming, which doesn't seem specific to a period or place, fits with the storybook aesthetic of this film. The director's eye for detail allows him to communicate tone shifts to the audience with great subtly. At the opening of the film, it appears to be late summer, early fall, but as Melissa strays farther into the forest the "seasons" change. She finds herself surrounded by bare branches lined by frost. These very light touches transform a simple tale of childish curiosity gone hideously astray into a beautiful and riveting short film.

Trailer Trash

Automatons - The intriguing black and white trailer reveals exactly what the website promises - a "low tech effects film about the horror of wars and robots." The trailer, which has a beautiful visual style, and is engaging despite the lack of narrative voice over to give the images a clear context combines archetypal images (the wizened old man) with robots reminiscent of 40s and 50s sci-fi films. (Think less sophisticated than Robbie the Robot). Automatons will be shown at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater December 13-26 at 9 PM.

Devil's Grove - The trailer of this film opens with scenes of torture juxtaposed with popular titles like "Hostel", " Wolf Creek", and "Saw." After proclaiming that these films are "pussies," the trailer shows a young woman being strangled with barbed wire. Looks like literally buckets of fun for the hardened gorehound.

The Listening Dead
- This "Gothic fable" promises to tell the tale of a composer and his wife who are haunted by the spirit of a young woman.

Thursday 8pm - This night had a real International feel to it with shorts from Austria, Spain and England only the feature was American.

Rogairi (Villains) directed by Tom Cosgrove 16 minutes - This film captures the hatred of the Irish for the British. Set in Ireland in 1793, an Irishman kills his wife in order to inherit Rotherham estates. In his cruelty he draws out her murder long enough for her to beseech the spirits of the surrounding wood to avenge her death.

This film was plain beautiful to look at - the costume design was gorgeous to the point that it hurt me to see the beautiful the murder victim's detailed satin dress covered in fake blood. The film's effectiveness rests on its use of arresting imagery in this tale of supernatural vengeance.

Happy Birthday 2 U directed by David Alcade 13 minutes - Winner of Best Short at the NYCHFF - Hostel only wishes. When a beautiful young social worker receives a mysterious call about a potentially abused boy, her efforts to help are increasingly thwarted. Instead of heeding the rules, she becomes increasingly obsessed with investigating the boy's circumstances. Only this film illustrates with graphic precision exactly what happened to curiosity and the cat.  I don't want to ruin the twist because it's so effective, but you'll never hear the song "Happy Birthday" the same way again.

Deadly Tantrum directed by Mike Mort 5 minutes-Some of the schwag of NYCHFF was a free copy of this little gem which sports the tag line-"He's angry, he's stupid, and he's got a power saw." ( The DVD includes an awesome "behind the scenes" segment as well.) This splatastic spoof  features a buzz saw wielding mutant wearing a tutu menacing a young blond tied to a chair, and  includes dialogue like "C'mon now Jeffrey don't you think you've killed enough?" and "That was a disgruntled turkey impregnator from Newport." Combined with cartoon-y sound design this film is Troma-esque fun.

The Lost directed by Chris Sivertson 1hour 55min Jack Ketchum actually introduced this film by saying, "I like this film. For the author of a novel that’s pretty extraordinary." (He has a cameo as a bartender.)

The movie opens with 19 year old Ray Pye brutally murdering two lovely young girls (one of whom is played by Misty Mundae under the name Erin Brown) who are camping. Ray's friend and soon to be partner in drug dealing, Tim, and his would be girlfriend, Jen, help him to cover up the crime. The film, as Ketchem acknowledged in his opening remarks, is character driven. It focuses mainly on the multifaceted character of Ray-who is, depending on circumstance, charming, dangerous, pathetic, vulnerable, sensitive, and funny. But after years of having everything he wants exactly when he wants it, Ray is faced with a series of rejections and betrayals most importantly by Tim and Jen. And although those around him know him to be dangerous, how far Ray will go to get revenge will shock an entire town and certainly the viewer.

Although this film drags a bit in the middle, the opening and climax of this film are absolutely riveting. Marc Senter showed perfect pitch for an actor in playing Ray Pye. He could easily have gone over the top, but rather his abilities revealed the full range of Pye's character-giving him moments of genuine vulnerability as well as charm. Senter's performance is perfectly partnered with this brilliantly subtle and engaging script. The Lost should be commended for it's unflinching portrayal of both emotional and physical cruelty. Not a film to be undertaken lightly or as one director remarked admiringly in an email, "I feel like I was just kicked in the stomach several times."

Special Q&A with writer Jack Ketchum to follow "The Lost"

Ketchum opened the Q and A with the following quip, "Yes - in the ending credits, the last card is, 'If you don't like the movie - buy the book.'"

The first question regarded how closely the Lost followed the events on which it was based. "I wrote the book based on a story that happened in a different place and a different time.  But what they did was they took my book and made it very, very close to the film.  So, its like two steps away from the actual crime.  But Ray Pye actually existed.  He did put the goddam crushed beer cans in his boots.  He was that kind of idiot."

Ketchum was then asked what state Ray Pye was actually from, he couldn't be sure but he told the audience, "A great reference source - Bloodletters and Bad Men by Jay Robert Nash.  I've stole...  I should be paying him.  I've taken little bits and pieces from all of his stuff.  There's a great three volume edition of American crime going all the way back to the Revolutionary War straight up to now.  Nash is great.  So - you can look up Charles "Smitty" Schmid - that's the real Ray Pye." (Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Schmid)

Director/Writer of Last Rites of the Dead Marc Fratto asked about the conversation during Ray's first date with the "bad girl". During this date, the two trade anecdotes about the worst things they had ever done. "That was a dialogue I had with a woman once," was the response.

When asked about the title, Ketchum informed the audience that the book was set in the 60s in which there were really just two groups of young people - the ones who went to college and the ones who went to Vietnam. Those were neither where "The Lost" lacking social definition. Unfortunately, the director felt like he couldn't do the period properly and so he set it in modern times (although the film has a distinct retro feel to it in the same way that David Lynch's films have a retro feel.)

One audience member was curious about how the director and producer approached him. "Lucky McKee came to me and said he wanted to do this.  And - I didn't know...  At the time - I had been getting a lot of DVDs from people who were totally untalented.  They were just awful.  And I said, "Oh shit - here's another one - his name is Lucky!  Fuckin, Lucky!"  But I put in his DVD and finally like after a month I played it, and I’m like, "This guy's really good!"  And I said, "OK - whatever he wants I’ll do it."  And he basically bought this for his best friend - Chris Siverston - to direct.  Chris did the black and white thing in May, if you've seen May.  Chris sent me an initial screenplay which was very, very good - very close to the book.  He even wanted the cat in there - if you read the book there's a cat, which would have added 20 minutes to the story.  They did just great all across the board.  I just said to Lucky recently - uh - he's going to be shooting Red (another Jack Ketchum novel).  And I said, "Why don't you just option everything I own - just option everything."  'Cause these guys are so damned good - they're real - they're nice people."

Ketchum claimed that the end "fucks me up... It was so intense. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall."

He shared with the audience that Siverston had several tricks - like the fly buzzing during intense scenes and the color coding of the characters. (Something that Francis Ford Coppola also did in his adaptation of Dracula.)

He closed his remarks with a brief reference by talking about some of his upcoming projects like a collection of short stories called "Closing Time and Other Stories" and a small novella called "Weed Species" of which he says,  "its probably the nastiest piece of work I’ve ever written.  It’s just - I mean - there's just one person in this entire book that you might want to sit down and talk to.  Everybody else sucks.  The notion is that, human beings are kudzu - were kudzu - weed species.  Well - a lot of us are."

Friday 7pm

The Thing About Bannon's Lookout directed by Patrick Rea and Kendall Sinn 10 minutes

Eyes Of Samir directed by Kevin Shulman 22 minutes

Witchwise directed by Joe Harris 12 minutes

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde directed by John Carl Buechler 1 hour 40min

Special Q&A with stars Tony Todd, Vernon Wells, and director John Carl Buechler to follow "The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

8:30 pm

Mime Massacre
directed by Colin Decker 6 minutes

The Listening Dead directed by Phil Mucci 14 minutes

Penny Dreadful directed by Bryan Norton 30 minutes-A young married couple inherits a beautiful brownstone in the heart of the Village, the only trouble seems to be that they won't be able to keep the place due to estate taxes. But when the wife begins experiencing visions and troubling phone calls, it seems the house may not be as perfect as previously thought. Betsy Palmer appears as a local psychic called into consult on the haunting and reassures the young wife that ghosts can't harm the living. Or can they?

What makes this film riveting is the combination of photography and soundtrack that give it a Victorian feel even though it is set in contemporary times.

Zombie directed by Lucio Fulci NON COMPETITION 1 hour 30 min

Special Q&A with "Penny Dreadful" star Betsy Palmer and director Bryan Norton

10 pm

No Signal
directed by Andrew Sterling 5 minutes

Popsy directed by Brian Haynes 24 minutes

Eddie Loves You directed by Karl Holt 25 minutes Winner of the Audience Choice Award at NYCHFF- The demonic doll plot has a long cinematic history; from the Trilogy of Terror to the Chucky franchise, everyone likes a psychotic knife wielding toy. Eddie Loves You is proud to continue in that tradition with an especially cute villian. When a man decides to throw out an Elmo-like stuffed animal, the stuffed animal seeks retribution with surprising results. The film offers homages to The Fog, Halloween, Child's Play, and the Exorcist.

Shot on DV for just 250 pounds, this film won Marv the Killer Rabbit's Audience Choice Award as well as Best Cinematography at the Portobello Film Festival in London and Best Amateur Film at the 17th Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester.

Masters Of Horror Presents THE DAMNED THING directed by Tobe Hooper NON COMPETITION 1 hour

Saturday 12 PM

The Tell Tale Heart
directed by Raul Garcia 10 minutes-Black and white computer animation accompanies Bela Lugosi narrating Poe's classic tale of obsession, murder, and hysteria.

The Pod directed by Jeremiah Kipp 18 minutes-The Pod is a drug that offers couples a singularly unifying experience IF they can survive it. When Jonas begins to feel that his relationship with Caroline is disintegrating, he seeks out the Pod to bring them back together. Unfortunately Caroline won't take the drug and so Jonas, in a desperate attempt to keep her, does the one thing you aren't supposed to do-he takes the Pod alone forcing Caroline to discover how far she is willing to go to save her relationship.

This film uses dream imagery, which fits with the premise of the Pod-a hallucinogen that helps couples come together by showing them how alone they are. In her quest to find Jonas, Caroline wrestles with an umbilical cord (showing her attempt to free herself from the influence of her mother) and sees a kissing couple melding into each other (her fear that she is losing her identity in her romantic connection to Jonas). Adding to the trippy nature of the film, Larry Fessenden appears as the Pod dealer.

Mother directed by Chris Gormley 12 minutes-Think La Jete meets Big Brother. When chemical warfare drives what's left of humanity underground, drone workers attempt to purify the surface while a supervisor known only as Mother tries to guide humanity's re-emergence. But when there is a safety breach will Mother continue to obey her government?

Fingerprints directed by Harry Basil 1hour 30 min-Winner of Best Feature at NYCHFF-A straight up slasher flick starring Sally Kirkland. After an almost fatal overdose, the death of her boyfriend,  a trip to rehab, Melanie's parents think the move to a small town in Texas is just what the entire family needs. Soon after arriving, When Melanie's older sister Crystal picks her up from the train station, Crystal reveals that that thier new hometown has a legend.  Apparently a train crashed into a school bus 50 years ago killing most of the towns children. If you park on the tracks near the train station, the ghosts of the children will push the car to safety. A harmless enough legend.

But when townspeople start ending up dead, Melanie begins to explore the truth behind the legend before she becomes it's next victim.

Q&A with "Fingerprints" director Harry Basil after screening.

After the film, director Harry Basil informed the audience that the premise for this film is actually based on a real case, and the Ghost Hunters did an episode on the phenomena. The depot used in the film was actually haunted, although not by little children, but by hookers. He hypothesized that it was more like "Deadwood" in which the ghost hookers walk around "using the c-word all day long."

Basil then regaled the audience with tales of Sally Kirkland who he claimed was "out of her mind", but later told me at the bar that she is "more like the female Gary Busey." According to Basil, Kirkland told him that she couldn't provide ADR for one of her lines because, "I was drunk, and I won't be able to match my lips." She also made the PAs look for her glasses, only to discover she was using them to stir her coffee.

She wasn't the only one having fun on the set. Geoffrey Lewis (who played Fuzzy Keeler the town drunk) decided to really get into character for one of the pivotal scenes set in a prison cell. Even though Lewis plays the town drunk, Basil assured the audience that we had "no idea" the effort involved in getting that scene to work because of the actor's condition.

Basil went on to praise filming in Oklahoma, (not Texas which is where the film is set) which has great production values because people will let you film in their homes for almost nothing. Since Fingerprints was shot for under 1 million dollars in 16 days, they needed value for their dollar. The production, of course, had problems like when tornado like conditions descended on the very day they were going to shoot in the station. Basil confided, "I felt like Peter O'Toole in the Stunt Man, 'I want that shot.'" (Basil does a very good impersonation of Peter O'Toole.)

Basil went on to confess that there was very little CGI in the film, but that he relied more on practical effects. And also confided, "I see myself on the dailies and I realize how frightening I look next to all those young people."

He wrapped up his comments by informing the audience that he just finished a zombie film with Dean Cain, Meatloaf and Tim Thomerson.

3 PM

Rien Ne Van Plus directed by Andreas Schaap 19 minutes - Beautifully shot, this film is essentially a game of Russian roulette played, not with a gun, but with a champagne bottle with nails stuck in the cork. There are four "players" two men and two women. What makes this film entrancing is the use of color-the blue caste of the background contrasts with the pale white of the actors faces and the red costumes for the women.

The Need directed by Chris Young 12 minutes-Leah Moreno gives a fabulous performance as a mysterious young woman who invites a suitor from a personal ad into her home. Almost the flip side of Grace, this film depicts how far a child can go in order to protect her mother.

The set gives the film both the saturated colors and the contemporary yet retro look of many David Lynch films, although some of the spookier scenes reminded me Dario Argento's Suspiria. A well cut gem of a short film.

Bad Water directed by J.Maurer 19 minutes-A pool attendant takes a job at an eerily empty pool. Strange things happen at night-the specter of a beautiful woman swimming and the picture of his drowned son turning up in the strangest places. Is the pool haunted, or does the water want to take revenge for his son's life?

Rapturious directed by Kamal Ahmed 1 hour 39min -Winner Best Actor Award at NYCHFF for Robert Oppel as Rapturious

Former "Jerky Boy" Kamal Ahmed wrote, directed, and even acted in this film in which a white rapper begins to question his sanity after taking a hit of cocaine called "Afterlife." In a Jacob's Ladder like twist, rap sensation Rapturious is unsure whether the drug he has taken has finally sent him over the edge or if he really is is the reincarnation of an evil gunslinger who has escaped from Hell.

Along with the unique premise, this film features appearances by cult phenomena Joe Bobb Briggs (under the name John Bloom) as Dr. Gabriel and Debbie Rochon appears as the frustrated agent attempting to prevent her client from self-destructing. In one of the hallucination sequences Rochon appears topless with her breasts smeared with blood. Cinque Lee, Spike Lee's brother, has a cameo as the host of a local cable show.

Q&A with director Kamal Ahmed after "Rapturious"

6 PM

Reverie directed by RJ Weyant 10min 30sec - While preparing to go to a party with her live in drug abusing boyfriend, Tabitha discovers that she is pregnant. Unsure that the baby is even his, Tabitha struggles not only with how to tell him about her pregnancy, but begins to have terrifying visions of herself. The film focuses on Tabitha trying to keep her boyfriend happy while coping with increasing frightening visions and the reality of her unfortunate situation.

Thorazine directed by Jason Hooper 29 minutes - A beautiful young schizophrenic is busted out of an asylum by her brother the same day he holds up a bank. But when he and his cohorts hole up in an abandoned building, they discover they are out of her medication. As members of the gang begin to meet bloody deaths, one wonders is it the work of some outside maniac or simply the effects of bad planning?

Woman's Intuition directed by Patrick Rea 6 minute - Director/writer Patrick Rea confessed to me that this short "Isn't really a horror film", but I'm not sure I agree. Much like the short film "Grace", this film is cut to the bare minimum which not only keeps audience interest high, but also keeps us wanting more (which is good because I have a copy of Rea's second feature film The Empty Acre and so we can look forward to seeing much much more from this director). Women's Intuition is the simple story of a woman who hears a sound whenever danger is near. She has learned that her sense is infallible, but suddenly the sound won't go away. She tries to stop the sound several ways and finally is forced to confront her suspicion that she might have a terminal disease. The twist, as all twists should be, is completely surprising and yet remarkably well set up, which marks the work of a sophisticated and talented writer.

The Marsh directed by Jordan Barker 1hour 33min Winner of Best Special Effects and Best Cinematography at the NYCHFF- A young beautiful but stressed out children's writer seeks out a holiday in the country but becomes the lead character in a supernatural mystery she must solve to save her life.

Actor turned director Jordan Barker directed Gabrielle Anwar and Forest Whitaker in this thriller.

9 PM

Story Of The Dead
directed by Emre Olcayto16 minutes-Tired of zombie films? Well how about a zombie movie with french subtitles? This slick short by Emre Olycato features three teens on the way to a concert who fall into a trap set by zombie looking for fresh meat. Say it loud, say it proud, "CEEERRRRRVVVVEEEEEAAAAUUUUUXXXXXX!"

Delirium And The Dollman directed by Andrew Lobel 23 minutes-Adding to the ranks of great NYU thesis films (Like J.T. Petty's Soft for Digging), this film pairs a compelling story with a striking vision. Two sisters ,who miss their father, witness their mother involved in a shocking sex act with their new stepfather. (Go with me on this, you will never look at bacon the same again.) To punish the sisters for spying, the elder sister, Delilah,  is abused. To save her the young sister, Alice, enters a nightmarish world in which misbehaving children are made into dolls. With the help of a half finished sailor doll named Jer,  Alice attempts to save her sister from being transformed into the beautiful but heatless object of her step father's demented fantasies.

When a film mainly using a dream world reality is successful, it is the mark of talent. These types of films can easily degenerate into ridiculousness (remember the "dream sequence" in Living in Oblivion?), and when one considers that Lobel also had to deal with mainly child actors, this film is no less then astonishing.

Recently Deceased directed by Chris McInroy 11 minutes-The tag line for this zombie comedy should be "Being dead is no excuse." When Jim is murdered, he rises from his own death in order to finish the items on his "to-do" list inclduing help his parents prepare for Halloween. Unfortunately, the last item on the list is partially missing. How will he finish his chores?

Any film that has a zombie making fish sticks and personalized throwing stars (This is the Property of Reggie), you know it's going to be fun. James Wan said on the commentary for Saw that young directors should make their lack of budget work for them. And this Chris McInroy has done, by making it into a joke. Thus the low budget look of the film doesn't detract from the film, but actually supports it.To me this movie was the zombie Napoleon Dynamite.

Masters Of Horror presents VALERIE ON THE STAIRS directed by Mick Garris

Rob is a suffering young writer, who is accepted by a writers commune that allows tenants to stay as long as they remained unpublished. After moving in Rob is confronted by a beautiful naked sobbing woman named Valerie. Rob, desperate to end her suffering, begins to investigate the mysterious Valerie who is enslaved by a demon played by Tony Todd. Rob discovers that no matter how real Valerie seems she is actually the product of collective creation. Three writers (one played by Christopher Lloyd) have "made" her. She is merely a character in an unpublished novel.

Or is she?

It seems that in giving their creation such a compelling existence these writers have unwittingly granted her a ghost like life. Her suffering isn't just on the page; it's real. And if she is a creation, then her existence on this plane makes the line between fiction and reality hazy at best. The episode explores the sadistic nature of writers (creating sympathetic characters only to torture them), but also has some fairly lofty ideas about what is more real-well made fiction or reality.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD CEREMONY Mick Garris

After the film, Garris kicked off his acceptance by saying, "I'm so glad that I wasn't popular and on the football team."

Garris continued by commenting that the Masters of Horror series started off as a joke and voiced his hope that George Romero will finally be able to participate in the series.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 22nd 1:00pm

FILMMAKERS PANEL hosted by Michael Hein

Panelists include; Michael Gingold (Editor Fangoria) Bill Lustig (Director / Producer), Betsy Palmer (Legendary actress, Friday the 13th), Jeff Lieberman (Satan's Little Helper, Squirm) & Joe Kane (Washington Post film columnist / The Phantom of the Movies)

3 PM

Where's Julie? directed by Stephen J. Hadden 10 minutes-Is there anyone in NYC who has met someone who seemed like a normal person, you dated them for a half a minute, and then you realize you're dealing with a complete lunatic?  A man wakes up to find himself bound and his fiancé missing while a strange woman claiming to be his fiancé grows increasingly frustrated with his inability to accept the veracity of their engagement and her attachment to him. Imagine this as a kind of 10 minute Fatal Attraction-only a whole lot crazier.

Oculus directed by Mike Flanagan 32 minutes-A man convinced that a mirror killed his father as well as a long list of previous owners decides to conduct an experiment to prove his theory perhaps at the expense of his own life. This film is simple (one actor, a white room, and minimal props), and its effectiveness resides on a combination of the acting and the story of a simple object, which we confront every day, that suddenly reveals its overwhelming power.

Binding Silence directed by Ray Zablocki 22 minutes - When a bookstore clerk in an old bookstore happens across a book, it turns into a fatal obsession. This tale was particularly provocative for me because it reveals the kind of madness a reader can feel when particularly involved in a  book-namely that one can eschew food, sleep, responsibilities, even sanity simply to find out how a story ends. The interesting shadow effects, which are quite unique, were apparently created accidentally by a friend playing with ink and water-or so Zablocki explained to me later at the bar. These undefined shapes evoked a Lovecraftian feel to the film. Zablocki also explained his choice not to reveal the specific book with which the main character becomes obsessed.

"It really doesn't matter. It could  be anything. It could be the worst book, it could be the best book, it could be a cookbook. The book doesn't matter. It's about the obsession." Keeping the exact title of the book hidden serves two purposes-one allowing the viewer to project whatever type of book he/she desires and two much like in the "Cask of Amontillado" the omission keeps the viewer focused on the plot and the main character's journey.

The Entrance directed by Damon Vignale-When a female police officer is specifically requested to talk to a man who was allegedly abducted and forced to play games for his life, she is sucked into a battle of wits with a fallen angel who punishes the guilty and temps the innocent for the Devil's entertainment. Think Saw meets the Seventh Seal.

6 PM

Grace - Dir Paul Solet 6 min-Winner of the Best Short at the Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival, Grace is based in fact. Occasionally pregnant women knowingly have to carry dead babies to term. When Madeleine (Liza Weil) is involved in a car accident, her husband (Brian Austen Green) and her unborn baby are casualties. Madeleine decides to carry the baby to term in order to deliver her naturally. Much like the film Deathdream, this short is a tribute to the power of a mother's love and its potentially monstrous results.
Much like Women's Intuition, this film had diamond drill like precision. Watching it, one could feel the audience's fascination with the story and the characters. The attention to detail (like Liza Weil's nails recently featured in Rue Morgue) as well as the careful and thoughtful editing of the piece rightfully earned it an award at the RIHFF.

Puppeteer directed by Guido Tolke 7min 11sec-A just married couple on their way to their honeymoon suddenly find themselves the victim of a demented lunatic's game. But what is the game? And how do the "players" win?

Ghost Town directed by Tai Logsdon 18min 30sec- When a couple of robbers in the Old West whole up in a ghost town, they may not  be as alone as they think. Soon the town reveals itself to be quite habitated, although not by the living, and some of those inhabitants are not strangers.

Last Rites Of The Dead directed by Marc Fratto 2 hours - Winner Best Actress and Best Screenplay

It seems that the focus of zombie films has gone from epic stories to very personal and focused films - like Shaun of the Dead and Zombie Honeymoon. Last Rites of the Dead is no exception. The movie opens with the usual splicing of news footage explaining that the dead are rising from the grave. Much like in Shaun of the Dead, no medical explanation is given. This is only exposition for the true story that is about to unfold. The film then shifts to a young woman trapped in her bathroom while her insanely jealous boyfriend attempts to break in. When he finally does, he shoots her and thus begins Angela's journey into her afterlife.

Only the afterlife is pretty much the same as her old one, except she goes to a zombie support group, complete with personalize throw up buckets, cruises online zombie dating sites (Love After Life), and has to worry about how to break it to  her mother that she's undead. Meanwhile, her ex-boyfriend continues to stalk her while joining up with an anti zombie vigilante group. Angela vacillates between trying to keep things as "normal" as possible (the support group) and a zombie cult that hunts humans and espouses embracing one's zombie nature.

What's striking about this film is how many strong female characters there are from the mortally determined Commandant, to the zombie cult leader Mother Solsitice, to Angela herself who is a kind of zombie Citizen Ruth-a woman caught between two flawed warring ideologies. Gina Ramsden, who plays Angela and received an award for her performance rightfully so, gives a beautiful vulnerability to her character, which reminded me of Holly Hunter. Ultimately, this is a tale of one woman's journey to independence, but with a whole bunch of good old fashioned gore along the way.



And now... a festival report from MARV, THE KILLER BUNNI...


















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